Cities Undermine the Holiday Spirit with Unconstitutional Bans on Sharing Food with the Homeless

Many elected officials try to stop all the charitable talk as Americans celebrate the Giving Season.

Murfreesboro in Tenn. is currently considering a rule that requires people to get a permit for food sharing with homeless or other needy persons.

Nashville’s Fox 17 last month reported that “a new ordinance” is under consideration. This would limit the number of people who can serve food on public property (including parks and sidewalks). The rule requires that food be handed out with a permit. It also requires food safety training before a person can apply for a permit.

Are there food safety classes available? Really?

Following immediate protest from the residents, Murfreesboro Mayor Shane McFarland made a weak defense of his proposal. He said that people who show up on city property without being notified are a problem that needs to be addressed.

Is Murfreesboro now free to appear on public property without prior notice, Mr. Mayor

Newark’s elected officials are engaging in similar vile acts of violence. The city recently informed local aid organizations that they would no longer allow them to share food with Newark residents. However, it changed its mind and stated that those giving out food will need permits. This new rule is specifically for people who provide food for the homeless. New York TimesLast week, reported. Wow.

Why is it that Newark and Murfreesboro elected officials have been so willing to share food with those less fortunate during the holiday season? They aren’t the only ones doing this. Others in America have also been working year-round to reduce charitable food donations.

I’ve devoted many columns to these terrible crackdowns over the years. As I mentioned, several cities throughout the country, including Houston, Dallas and Houston as well as New York and Philadelphia and Birmingham have adopted ordinances prohibiting residents from feeding the poor and homeless. Recently, I attacked a Charlotte lawmaker who proposed this summer that making sharing food with homeless people a crime is a violation of the state’s constitution.

Houston is a near-perpetual offenders.

The Mayor’s Office for Homeless Initiatives provides training for groups that wish to offer food service. Houston ChronicleLast month’s article focused on Houston officials’ continued attempts to undermine efforts of Food Not Bombs, a charity that provides food to the hungry and other people in need.

They are all indecent and horrendous. As I have explained almost a decade back, they also contradict the Constitution. Las Vegas was one of the cities that were sued for violating its permit requirements. This settlement in 2010 allowed Las Vegas to repeal their “ban”. [that] imposed steep penalties—including a $1,000 fine and up to six months in jail— for anyone caught giving away food in public to more than a handful of people without a permit,” I explain in my book The Hands That Feed Us: Why Would Fewer and Smarter Laws Make our Food System more Sustainable?.

Jay Hamburger from Houston, who has been helping the homeless for over a decade, said to me that “no government has any right to interfere or intercede” in his otherwise legal right of expressing himself through my generosity. These remarks also appear in my book. Hamburger’s right. And even if governments had that power, it’s one no decent people should exercise—during the Giving Season or any season.